West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney entered the race to represent the state in the Senate on Tuesday, becoming the first Republican challenger to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin for the 2024 election.
Mooney, who has served in the House since 2015, is presenting himself as a hard-line conservative supporter of former President Donald Trump, and saying Manchin’s actions — most notably his leading role crafting the Inflation Reduction Act — are a betrayal to West Virginia and its coal economy.
“I think Republicans need to take the West Virginia seat in two years for the sake of this country,” Mooney said on West Virginia Metro News’ “Talkline” radio program Tuesday.
He argued that Manchin’s been “the chief enabler of Joe Biden. I know in the past he held back some stuff. But lately, he’s been Biden’s chief enabler. And frankly, he’s a liberal Democrat. And West Virginia doesn’t deserve that anymore. And it has to be changed. So I think the time is now.”
Mooney’s campaign launch video also focuses heavily on Manchin’s image as a moderate, arguing that it has changed.
“Now, Joe Manchin votes with Joe Biden nearly 90 percent of the time. Now, Manchin’s busting the budget, wasting trillions, exploding the deficit and igniting the worst inflation in years. Now, Manchin’s punishing West Virginia families, with skyrocketing prices on groceries and gas,” a voiceover says.
“And Joe Biden’s destructive Green New Deal was dead and buried until Joe Manchin resurrected it. Manchin bailed Biden out, making a disastrous deal that gutted West Virginia coal,” it says.
Mooney, on the other hand, “will always stand with us,” the video says, pointing to his record defending gun rights and fighting other liberal policies.
“And Alex Mooney works to Make America Great Again. That means fighting for our miners, protecting coal jobs from climate tyrants gutting our mining industry,” the ad continues.
Mooney has repeatedly hinted at challenging Manchin, particularly earlier this year when Mooney beat incumbent Rep. David McKinley (R) in a primary and denounced Manchin after the senator campaigned for McKinley. The two Republicans had to run against each other because the state lost a House seat in redistricting (E&E Daily, May 11).
The Office of Congressional Ethics this year concluded that Mooney likely violated federal laws by improperly accepting gifts and having staff complete personal tasks for him, among others (E&E Daily, May 24).
Manchin has not formally committed to running again. His seat is one of the most likely to flip in the 2024 Senate elections, owing to West Virginia’s increasingly conservative politics; Trump had the second highest vote share and margin of any state there in 2020 (Climatewire, Nov. 15).
“A robust democratic process has never been more important to our country, and Sen. Manchin encourages every candidate who values public service to enter the race,” Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon said after Mooney’s announcement.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also said he might enter the Republican race, releasing a public letter to supporters indicating he would be open to running for Senate or for governor, a position currently held by Jim Justice (R).
“We have a very deep record, as strong as any potential candidate in the nation for either the U.S. Senate or for Governor. I have been asked to consider running for these two positions, as well as the U.S. House in the northern part of the state or stand for re-election as Attorney General,” Morrissey wrote, saying he would “give all of these options appropriate and due consideration.”
The attorney general asked his supporters to hold off pledging support for any other candidate in those races until he makes his decision.
Morrisey ran against Manchin in the 2018 election. Manchin won by 3.3 percentage points.
Correction: This story was updated to clarify Manchin’s challenger during his last reelection campaign.